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April 08, 2015

Stevan Ridley, Jets agree to one-year deal

The New York Jets and ex-Patriots running back Stevan Ridley have agreed to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Playing only six games last season before tearing his ACL, Ridley rushed 94 times for 340 yards and two touchdowns and he averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry last season.

Although he has had some issues with ball security, Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards, fourth-most in Patriots franchise history, and 12 touchdowns two seasons ago.

Ridley joins Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell in the Jets backfield. Ivory is the 25th-ranked running back in my pre-draft 2015 fantasy football running back rankings.

The Jets ranked third in the NFL in rushing offense last season with 142.5 yards per game behind only the Seahawks (172.6/G) and Cowboys (147.1/G).


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March 19, 2015

Dwayne Bowe, Browns agree to free-agent deal

The Cleveland Browns and free-agent wide receiver Dwayne Bowe have agreed to a two-year deal, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

After the Chiefs agreed to a five-year deal with Jeremy Maclin, they released Bowe, but they would have likely released him for salary-cap reasons either way.

Along with all other Chiefs receivers last season, Bowe had zero touchdowns and finished the season with only 60 receptions for 754 yards. Bowe now has 801 yards or less in three consecutive seasons after back-to-back 1,100-yard campaigns in 2010 and 2011.

Part of Bowe's lack of production can be attributed to the Alex Smith's struggles and reluctance to throw the ball downfield, but catching passes thrown from Josh McCown (or Johnny Manziel) won't significantly elevate his level of production.

With Josh Gordon's looming full-year suspension, the additions of Brian Hartline and Bowe in free agency are a step towards improving the receiving corps. But as I project in my 2015 NFL mock draft, I'd expect the Browns to add a wide receiver early in the draft. (Then again, that seemed like a virtual certainty last year as well.)


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Dolphins won't match Bills offer sheet for Charles Clay

The Buffalo Bills continue to re-make their offense by adding talented skill-position players for new quarterback Matt Cassel.

With the Miami Dolphins using their transition tag on tight end Charles Clay, they had until Sunday at midnight to decide whether to match the Bills offer sheet for Clay or not.

Per Amando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins won't match the offer sheet.

Free-agent running back C.J. Spiller signed with the Saints and the team released tight end Scott Chandler, who has signed with the Patriots, but they have added (via trade or free agency) LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and now Clay this month. Of course, last season they traded up to fourth overall to select Sammy Watkins.

Clay's numbers dropped in 2014 (58/605/3) compared to 2013 (69/759/6), but he got off to a slow start -- average of 3.4 receptions for 29.2 yards in the first five games of the season. Beginning in Week 7, however, Clay averaged 4.56 catches for 51.0 yards per game and scored all three of his touchdowns. From Week 7 to 17, Clay ranked fifth among tight ends in fantasy points per game (7.1).

Meanwhile, Miami's group of pass-catchers will look quite different as they have signed tight end Jordan Cameron in free agency, traded for Kenny Stills, which led to a trade of Mike Wallace to Minnesota and they hosted free-agent receiver Michael Crabtree on Wednesday.


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March 13, 2015

Darren McFadden, Cowboys agree to two-year deal

The Dallas Cowboys are unlikely to replace the loss of star running back DeMarco Murray, who signed with the Eagles yesterday, with just one back.

One of the players they hope to fill part of the void is ex-Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who has agreed to a two-year deal with the team, per Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Since being the fourth overall pick by the Raiders in the 2008 NFL Draft, McFadden has underwhelmed as a pro.

Durability has been a huge issue with McFadden, who played a full 16-game season for the first time last year but missed at least three games in each of his first six seasons.

Over his first four seasons, McFadden was highly productive on a per-touch basis with an average of 4.75 yards per carry from 2008 to 2011. Among RBs with at least 400 carries over that four-year span, McFadden's 4.75 YPC average ranked eighth in the NFL. Over each of the past three seasons, however, McFadden has averaged 3.4 YPC or less each season.

At this point, the Cowboys could add another running back via free agency, but I'd also expect them to consider adding a running back on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Fortunately, it's one of the deepest running back classes in recent memory.


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March 12, 2015

Jordan Cameron signs with Dolphins -- not Browns

Earlier tonight, it was reported that the Cleveland Browns and tight end Jordan Cameron agreed to a two-year deal.

Instead of signing with the Browns, however, Cameron has signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, who have announced that the signing is official.

Of course, Cameron dealt with a less-than-ideal quarterback situation in Cleveland, but he said that Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was "a big part" of his decision.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have not pulled their transition tender on tight end Charles Clay, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Cameron is an athletic mismatch at tight end and had a breakout season in 2013 with 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. That said, durability (specifically concussions) is a concern for Cameron, who played only 10 games in 2014 and posted a stat line of only 24/424/2.


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Chiefs part ways with Dwayne Bowe

When the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a five-year deal with Jeremy Maclin, it was all but certain that the team would part ways with Dwayne Bowe.

And they have as the team announced today.

Bowe had 60 receptions for 754 yards and no touchdowns last season. To be fair, no Chiefs receivers had a touchdown last season.

Back in 2010, Bowe actually led the NFL in touchdown receptions (15), but he has had less than that over the past four years combined (13). Since back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, Bowe has had 801 yards or less in three consecutive seasons and has averaged just 742.67 per season during that stretch.

That said, part of the blame can be attributed to the team's offense and Alex Smith's inability to push the ball downfield. Bowe is the third-best available free-agent wide receiver behind Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree.


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Browns re-sign TE Jordan Cameron to two-year deal

The Cleveland Browns have re-signed tight end Jordan Cameron to a two-year deal worth $15 million, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

After Julius Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cameron was the top available free-agent tight end on the market.

Cameron is an athletic mismatch at tight end and had a breakout season in 2013 with 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns.

That said, durability (specifically concussions) is a concern for Cameron, who played only 10 games in 2014 and posted a stat line of only 24/424/2.

It's unclear whether Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel or someone else will be under center in Week 1, but the Browns ranked last in the NFL last year with only 12 passing touchdowns.

Given the suspension (again) of Josh Gordon, the Browns really lacked weapons in the passing game with Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins projected as the team's starting wide receivers in 2015.

[UPDATE: Cameron agreed to a deal with the Browns, but he did not sign the contract. He has officially signed with the Dolphins, instead.]


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Justin Forsett re-signs with the Ravens on three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens and running back Justin Forsett have agreed to a three-year contract, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Forsett was one of the league's biggest surprises last season with a breakout campaign of 1,266 rushing yards, fifth-most in the NFL, and eight touchdowns. In addition, his average of 5.4 yards per carry led all running backs last season.

Although he turns 30 in October, Forsett had only 347 carries before last season.

"He doesn’t have the wear and tear, and Justin did a very good job of coming in, competing and then being our bell cow," general manager Ozzie Newsome said during a recent news conference. "We would like to retain Justin, but I’ve learned something since the end of the season about Justin that I didn’t really know. He has mentored some very good, young backs, starting with Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew when he was in Jacksonville. Having Justin here, and with the opportunity also bringing in hopefully another young running back, to have Justin be around that guy would be an asset also. So, we will work to try to retain Justin."

Second-year back Lorenzo Taliaferro should see an expanded role and it's possible that the Ravens use an early-round pick on a back as well. Bernard Pierce has been a disappointment over each of the past two seasons and his roster spot could be in jeopardy depending on what happens in the draft.

Forsett won't finish as a top-eight fantasy running back once again, but it's likely that he improves upon his 44/263 receiving numbers under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.


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Report: DeMarco Murray expected to sign with Eagles

A little more than a week ago, the Philadelphia Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Since that trade, the Eagles have agreed to deals with Frank Gore, who has instead signed with the Colts, and Ryan Mathews, who has yet to sign his contract.

And with today's news, it's more than likely that Mathews never plays a snap (signs his contract) in Philadelphia.

The leading rusher in the NFL last season, Murray rushed for a franchise-record 1,845 yards on a league-high 392 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. Adding career highs in receptions (57) and receiving yards (416), Murray also led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,261).

Both the Cowboys and Eagles have great run-blocking offensive lines so there isn't much of a downgrade, if any, from that standpoint. The obvious big concern with Murray is his durability as he had never played a full 16-game season before last year. In addition, Murray accumulated a massive 497-touch workload counting two playoff games last year.

With Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams on the depth chart, the Cowboys will look to upgrade the position via free agent, NFL Draft and/or trade.

[Update: Eagles will give Murray five-year deal worth $42 million (with $21 million guaranteed).]


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March 11, 2015

Andre Johnson signs three-year with Colts

Released by the Houston Texans a few days ago, Andre Johnson will get a chance to face his former team (at least) twice per year.

Johnson announced via his Instagram account that he is officially a Colt.

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, it's a three-year deal worth $21 million.

Averaging 11.0 yards per reception and 62.4 yards per game, both of which were nine-year lows, Johnson finished the season with 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns.

Set to turn 34 in July, Johnson ranks ninth all-time in receptions (1,012) and 12th all-time in receiving yards (13,597). In addition, he has had five 100-reception seasons (tied for NFL-most with Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall) and four 1,400-yard seasons (only Jerry Rice has more).

With Reggie Wayne not being re-signed by the Colts and Hakeem Nicks being a free agent, Johnson should start opposite T.Y. Hilton in two-receiver sets and his signing diminishes Donte Moncrief's breakout potential.


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Jeremy Maclin's deal with Chiefs is worth $55 million over 5 years

A few days ago, it was reported that the Kansas City Chiefs would sign free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, it's a five-year deal worth $55 million and includes $22.5 million in guarantees.

Before Maclin can sign the deal, however, the Chiefs need to clear the cap space and a likely salary-cap casualty is Dwayne Bowe, who had 60 catches for 754 yards and no touchdowns last season.

Coming off a career year (85/1,318/10), it's highly unlikely that Maclin repeats that type of production for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. In his four seasons playing for Reid in Philadelphia, Maclin never exceeded 70 receptions or 964 yards.

While the Eagles threw the ball 38.8 times per game, fifth-most in the NFL, the Chiefs threw it just 30.8 times per game, fifth-fewest, last season. In addition, Alex Smith doesn't throw the ball downfield. Based on data from PFF, Smith had just 24 pass attempts of 20-plus yards, which ranked 37th last season.

Finishing with the ninth-most fantasy points among wide receivers last year, Maclin is more likely to finish as a low-end WR2 this year.


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Ryan Mathews expected to sign with the Eagles

After trading away stud running back LeSean McCoy, the Philadelphia Eagles had thought they had their replacement -- Frank Gore.

Although Gore got cold feet, free-agent running back Ryan Mathews is in Philadelphia for "more than a visit," per Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo.

Durability is the biggest concern with Mathews, who has missed a total of 18 games over five NFL seasons including eight last season. Mathews, who turns 28 on May 1st, has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in his career and has averaged 4.40 yards per carry over his five seasons.

Making another blockbuster trade yesterday that sent Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford, the Eagles will have one of the league's least durable starting QB-RB combinations provided Bradford isn't somehow part of a master plan to move up in the draft to get Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

If Mathews can stay healthy for a full season, always a major IF, Mathews has RB1 upside in Chip Kelly's offense. No player had more carries than McCoy (626) over the past two seasons combined.

[Update: Mathews and the Eagles have agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million.]


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March 10, 2015

Jets officially release Percy Harvin, first visit to Bills

When the New York Jets traded a fifth-round pick for wide receiver Brandon Marshall, we knew that the team would release wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Now they have. Officially.

There are reports the Patriots are interested in Harvin, but perhaps he stays within the division and reunites with his head coach last season.

Harvin had a total of 51 receptions for 483 yards and 33 carries for 202 yards with two touchdowns last season. With the exception of 2013 when he played just one game, Harvin's 43.3 yards per scrimmage per game was the lowest of his career.

In addition to the headaches he may cause in the locker room and for the coaches, Harvin has struggled with durability as he has played only 23 games over the past three seasons combined.

If Harvin ends up signing with Buffalo, however, the trio of LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins and Harvin would give the Bills a talented core of young skill players.


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Torrey Smith, 49ers agree to 5-year, $40 Million contract

Going into the start of NFL free agency today at 4 p.m., Torrey Smith was my second-ranked available wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin, who is expected to sign with the Chiefs.

That said, there were reports that Smith and the San Francisco 49ers were "a done deal" -- and now it is.

With Michael Crabtree being an unrestricted free agent, Smith fills the void his departure creates and he's reunited with ex-Ravens teammate Anquan Boldin, who is entering the final year of his deal and turns 35 in October.

Smith is one of the league's better deep threats and he has averaged 16.86 yards per reception in his four NFL seasons. Among players with a minimum of 50 receptions over the past four seasons, Smith's 16.86 Y/R ranks fifth behind Danario Alexander (17.29), DeSean Jackson (17.27), Josh Gordon (17.11) and Malcom Floyd (17.04).

Although Smith set or tied career lows in receptions (49) and yards (767), but he set a career high in touchdowns (11) and finished the season strong. Smith had a 38/591/10 line over his final 10 games last season.


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March 09, 2015

Report: Frank Gore "intent on joining" the Colts (not Eagles)

Until a player signs on the dotted line, a deal is not yet a (done) deal and a player could get cold feet.

Apparently, that may be happening with running back Frank Gore, who was expected to sign a three-year deal with the Eagles when free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport also tweeted to "keep an eye on the Colts" for Gore's services.

In fact, Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports says that "all indications" have Gore in Indianapolis.

With Ahmad Bradshaw now a free agent, Trent Richardson expected to be released and Dan Herron playing on a one-year tender, the Colts are expected to also add a running back, potentially in Round 1, in the NFL Draft as well.

Gore turns 32 years old in May, but he rushed for 1,106 yards (4.3 YPC) last season and he has exceeded the 1,100-yard mark in each of the past four seasons. While he has been durable -- no missed games during that span, he has the third-most touches behind Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy over the past four years.

Finishing with the 17th-most fantasy points among running backs last season, Gore should have a chance to finish as an RB2 (top-24 RB) in either Indianapolis (or Philadelphia) in 2015.


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Andre Johnson released by Texans

A week ago, it was reported that the Houston Texans had granted permission for wide receiver Andre Johnson to seek a trade.

Given the remaining terms of his contract, it's not surprising that a team wasn't interested in taking on his contract and today the Texans have released Johnson.

Averaging 11.0 yards per reception and 62.4 yards per game, both of which were nine-year lows, Johnson finished the season with 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, teammate DeAndre Hopkins saw a big jump in his production with 76 receptions for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns.

Set to turn 34 in July, Johnson ranks ninth all-time in receptions (1,012) and 12th all-time in receiving yards (13,597). In addition, he has had five 100-reception seasons (tied for NFL-most with Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall) and four 1,400-yard seasons (only Jerry Rice has more).

Given Houston's lack of postseason success and the team's quarterback struggles during his tenure, I'd expect solid quarterback play and team competitiveness to be the two primary considerations for Johnson at this point in his career.

It's possible the favorites to sign Johnson are in the AFC South as the Colts have one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano recruited Johnson to Miami (FL). In addition, they won't be re-signing Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks is also a free agent.

Of course, the Patriots and Tom Brady or the Seahawks and Russell Wilson are the last two Super Bowl champions and Johnson would be able to play a significant role as a member of either team's receiving corps.

Considering Johnson was born and raised in Miami, the Dolphins would make sense among the next tier of potential suitors with Mike Wallace's status up on the air and some previous cuts at wide receiver. Another potential suitor could be the Eagles with Jeremy Maclin expected to sign with the Chiefs.


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Bills retain Jerry Hughes on five-year deal

It's not often that talented and young pass-rushers reach the open market and that's the case for edge rusher Jerry Hughes, who turns 27 in August.

The Buffalo Bills and Hughes have agreed to a five-year deal, per Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News.

Hughes, the first-round pick by the Colts in 2010, got off to a slow start with the Colts -- 5.0 sacks in 40 games over his three seasons in Indianapolis.

With the Bills, however, Hughes has posted exactly 10.0 sacks in back-to-back seasons.

Hughes was one of three Bills to record double-digit sacks last season. Mario Williams (14.5) and Marcell Dareus (10.0) were the others.

Buffalo ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.1 points per game) and total defense (312.2 yards per game) while leading the NFL in sacks (54).


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Safety Devin McCourty re-signs with Patriots for 5 years, $47.5 million

When the New England Patriots used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski (instead of free safety Devin McCourty), it seemed reasonable that the Patriots had felt confident that they would be able to re-sign McCourty prior to the start of the NFL free-agency period on Tuesday.

And they have.

The Patriots and McCourty have agreed to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million with $28.5 million of it guaranteed, per ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss.

A converted cornerback, McCourty is only 27 years old and one of the league's best free safeties and he was ranked second in my NFL free-agency rankings.

Next up on the to-do list for the Patriots will be to re-sign cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has a roster bonus that becomes guaranteed on Monday. It's been reported that Revis would re-sign with the Patriots if the free-agent offers are comparable.


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Torrey Smith to 49ers described as "done deal"

The way Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti described Torrey Smith's impending free agency, it was fairly clear that Smith would play home games somewhere other than Baltimore in 2015.

In a blog post written by Smith yesterday, he thanked the City of Baltimore, the Ravens organization and their fans, but wrote that he "will be playing for a different organization."

Per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, it's a "done deal with the 49ers."

The 49ers had a need at wide receiver with Michael Crabtree being an unrestricted free agent and Anquan Boldin, with whom Smith has remained close, turning 35 in October.

Smith set a career high with 11 touchdowns last season, but his 49 receptions and 767 yards either tied or set career lows. Smith started the season slowly, but he finished strong with 38/591/10 over his final 10 games.


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Mark Sanchez re-signs with the Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have re-signed quarterback Mark Sanchez to a two-year deal worth $9 million with $5.5 million guaranteed, per Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports.

With Nick Foles breaking his collarbone last season, Sanchez played in nine games, starting eight of them, and threw for 268.7 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

If both Foles and Sanchez are on the roster in September, it's likely that Foles would be the starter.

But Foles' status for the 2015 season seems anything but certain as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer refers to him as the "odd man out" as the team potentially (likely) trades up to get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

It will require a lot for the Eagles to move up from 20th to get Mariota, who isn't expected to last any further than the sixth overall pick.

This offseason, the Eagles have traded away their leading rusher (LeSean McCoy) to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso and their leading receiver (Jeremy Maclin) is expected to reunite with former coach Andy Reid in Kansas City. In turn, the Eagles are expected to sign free-agent running back Frank Gore.


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Julius Thomas expected to sign with the Jaguars

Tight end Julius Thomas is expected to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday when the 2015 NFL league year officially begins.

Meanwhile, the Denver Post projects the deal to be worth close to $9 million per year for five years.

Thomas, who turns 27 in June, broke out two seasons ago with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 and followed up his breakout campaign with another 12-TD season but struggled with injuries. In 13 games last season, Thomas had 43 catches for 489 yards.

Transitioning from Peyton Manning and the Broncos to Blake Bortles and the Jaguars negatively impacts Thomas' fantasy outlook, but it helps that of Bortles.

The addition to Thomas to a group of wide receivers that includes last year's second-round picks Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, undrafted free agent Allen Hurns and could get Justin Blackmon back from indefinite suspension would give Bortles a talented nucleus of young pass-catchers.

Thomas will be my third-ranked fantasy tight end heading into 2015 behind Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.


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March 08, 2015

Report: Jeremy Maclin to sign with Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are expected to sign free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin when free agency opens on Tuesday, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

In order to clear the cap space to sign Maclin, the Chiefs are likely to cut Dwayne Bowe, who had 60 receptions for 754 yards and no touchdowns last year. In fact, none of Kansas City's wide receivers scored a touchdown in 2014.

After missing all of 2013 with a torn ACL, Maclin signed a one-year deal with the Eagles and had a career year in Chip Kelly's offense with 85 receptions, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The move from Philadelphia to Kansas City certainly hurts Maclin's fantasy outlook. In his four seasons playing for Andy Reid, Maclin had never exceeded 70 receptions for 964 yards.

In addition, Alex Smith doesn't throw the ball downfield. Based on data from PFF, Smith had just 24 pass attempts of 20-plus yards, which ranked 37th last season. As a comparison, both Nick Foles (59) and Mark Sanchez (37) had more than Smith even though both started only eight games for the Eagles.

With Maclin signing with the Chiefs, it only further enhances the breakout potential for Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia's second-round pick in 2014. Matthews had 67/872/8 as a rookie and should lead the team in targets in his second season.


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Brandon Flowers, Chargers agree to four-year deal

The San Diego Chargers and cornerback Brandon Flowers have agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $36 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

After a down 2013 season with the Chiefs, Flowers signed a one-year deal with the Chargers last offseason and had a bounce-back year in 2014. Leading the team in interceptions (three) and pass break-ups (11), Flowers graded out as the 15th-best cornerback by PFF last season.

The Chargers used their first-round pick last year on cornerback Jason Verrett, who started four games but missed more than half of the season with a torn labrum.

The team's other starting cornerback, Shareece Wright, as well as starting strong safety Marcus Gilchrist are both unrestricted free agents.

With Kareem Jackson re-signing with the Texans and Byron Maxwell expected to sign with the Eagles, the top three free-agent cornerbacks are now off the market.


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Byron Maxwell to get 6 years and $63M from Eagles?

Earlier today, Jayson Braddock of SportsTalk 790 in Houston tweeted that a "deal is done" that free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell will sign with the Eagles with $25 million guaranteed.

That said, his agent, Alvin Keels, made sure to point out that the deal is not official.

Considering players can't sign free agents from other teams until Tuesday at 4 p.m., I suppose there is always the possibility that another team could swoop in before Maxwell signs on the dotted line.

That said, CBS Sports Jason La Canfora has tweeted that the "final contract numbers" are "very likely" to be six years, $63 million with $25 million guaranteed.

The top-ranked free-agent cornerback not named Darrelle Revis, Maxwell, who turned 27 last month, has good size (6-0, 207) and had his best season as a full-time starter.

Without either of their starting cornerbacks -- Cary Williams, who was released, and Bradley Fletcher, an impending free agent, the Eagles had a major hole at cornerback and their secondary was a team weakness with both Williams and Fletcher last season.

Only the Falcons (279.9 Y/G) allowed more passing yards last season than the Eagles (264.9 Y/G), who also allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns (30).

Per NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks, the Eagles are targeting Tramon Williams to pair with Maxwell.


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Frank Gore expected to sign three-year deal with the Eagles

With Chip Kelly moving star running back LeSean McCoy, the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to sign running back Frank Gore in free agency, per NJ.com's Eliot Shorr-Parks.

Teams are officially allowed to sign free agents from other teams starting Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's a three-year deal with the $7.5 million in the first two seasons guaranteed.

Turning 32 years old in May, Gore rushed for 1,106 yards on 255 carries -- 4.3 yards per carry -- and four touchdowns last season and added 11 catches for 111 yards and another score. Over the past four seasons, Gore has rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each season, but he has been extremely durable with no missed games during that stretch.

Not only is Gore on the wrong side of 30, but only two running backs have more touches than Gore (1,301) over the past four seasons including playoff games -- Marshawn Lynch (1,479) and LeSean McCoy (1,306).

While Gore's skill set fits Kelly's offense well, it's an obvious downgrade from McCoy, who was traded to the Bills last week for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Gore finished as the RB17 in standard-scoring leagues in 2014. Provided continued good health, Gore should be at least a low-end RB2 in standard-scoring leagues in 2015.


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Report: Ndamukong Suh to sign with Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins and free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh have agreed to a six-year deal worth $114 million that includes $60 million in guaranteed money, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Since the official start of free agency doesn't begin until Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Dolphins and Suh won't be able to finalize the deal until that point or after.

According to ESPN, the Detroit Lions offer was for $17 million per year and included $58 million in guaranteed money.

Assuming that there are no snags in contract talks and Suh lands in Miami, he will once again be a part of a dynamic front four with Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and Vernon Olivier. Over the past five seasons, only DeMarcus Ware (62.5) and Jared Allen (62.0) have more sacks than Wake (57.5).

The second overall pick in 2010, Suh, the top free agent in our rankings, has been named first-team All-Pro in four of five seasons and has a total of 36.0 sacks over his five seasons.


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Randall Cobb, Packers agree to four-year, $40 million deal

Some teams like the Oakland Raiders were rumored to have prioritized wide receiver Randall Cobb in free agency, but he's staying put.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Green Bay Packers and Cobb have agreed to a four-year deal worth $40 million.

Only 24 years old, Cobb, the team's second-round pick in 2011, had a career season last year with 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, all of which were career highs.

The Packers have had a ton of success with second-round receivers. Using data from Pro Football Reference, ex-Packers receiver Greg Jennings, Nelson and Cobb rank third, fifth and sixth, respectively, in terms of career approximate value for active receivers selected in the second round. The other three in the top six are Anquan Boldin, Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson.

Playing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Jordy Nelson on the outside, Cobb's fantasy value is maximized by his return to Green Bay. However, his return reduces the upside of Davante Adams, (still) the team's No. 3 receiver, and Jeff Janis, who would have been poised for a much larger role in his second season had Cobb departed via free agency.

Either though Nelson finished second among wide receivers in fantasy points last season, Cobb also finished in the top six.


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Saints, Mark Ingram agree to four-year deal

The New Orleans Saints have re-signed running back Mark Ingram to a four-year deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Despite missing three games, Ingram had 226 carries for 964 yards and nine touchdowns, all of which were career highs, last season and added 29 catches for 145 yards, also career highs.

Through his first four seasons, Ingram has missed a total of 14 games, but he has come into his own over the past two seasons with an average of 4.4 yards per carry (versus 3.9 YPC in his first two seasons).

Ingram, the team's first-round pick in 2011, won't turn 26 years old until late-December and was my second-ranked free-agent running back behind only DeMarco Murray.

With the Saints re-signing Ingram, it's a blow to Khiry Robinson's upside in 2015 and Ingram should lead the trio of Ingram, Robinson and Travaris Cadet in touches. Pierre Thomas was released earlier in the week.


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March 07, 2015

Texans re-sign CB Kareem Jackson to four-year deal

Not only did the Texans re-sign right tackle Derek Newton earlier today, but they have reached an agreement with starting cornerback Kareem Jackson on a four-year deal as well, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

According to Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle, the deal is worth $34 million with $20 million guaranteed.

Jackson, the team's first-round pick in 2010, has started in all five of his seasons in Houston. Although his career started slowly, he has developed into a quality starting cornerback.

With three interceptions last season, Jackson graded out as the 11th-best cornerback (of 108) by PFF. Teammate Jonathan Joseph graded out as the 23rd-best cornerback.

Jackson was the third-ranked cornerback in my 2015 NFL free-agent rankings behind Seattle's Byron Maxwell and San Diego's Brandon Flowers. If Darrelle Revis gets to the free-agent market, however, he would top the list.

As a defense, the Texans allowed the 21st-most passing yards (243.1/G), but only two teams -- 49ers (23) and Browns (21) -- intercepted more passes than the Texans (20) last season.


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Texans re-sign RT Derek Newton to five-year deal

Only three days away from the start of the 2015 NFL free-agency period, the Houston Texans and starting right tackle Derek Newton have reached a five-year deal on a new contract, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth $26.5 million and includes $10 million of guaranteed money.

Newton was the third-ranked offensive tackle in my 2015 NFL free-agent rankings behind Bryan Bulaga and Doug Free. Earlier this morning, Free and the Cowboys agreed to a three-year deal.

As the team's seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Newton has started at right tackle for them in each of the past three seasons.

Graded out as the 19th of 84 qualified tackles by PFF last season, Newton had a negative grade in pass protection (-6.4) but he was fourth in run blocking (+13.4). Newton was graded 72nd among 76 offensive tackles in 2013.


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March 06, 2015

Niles Paul agrees to 3-year deal to stay in Washington

Tight end Niles Paul was the sixth-ranked tight end in our 2015 NFL free-agent rankings, but the Washington Redskins will keep him from reaching the open market on Tuesday.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the two sides have agreed to a three-year deal worth close to $10 million.

Washington has one of the most talented young tight ends in Jordan Reed, but Reed has struggled with durability and Paul stepped up when Reed was out last season.

In his first three NFL seasons, Reed had only 14 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown. Paul had more than that in his first four games last season alone.

During that four-game span, Paul had a minimum of 60 yards in each game and he posted a line of 21/313/1. Over the rest of the season, however, Paul posted a line of just 18/194/0 with 19 yards or less in all but two games.


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No surprise: Jets will cut Percy Harvin

Before today's trade for Brandon Marshall, it seemed as though the Jets would part ways wide receiver Percy Harvin.

After the trade, that seemed like more of a certainty and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has tweeted the team will release Harvin.

Not only was Harvin due a salary of $10.5 million this season, but the Jets would have had to send a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks if he were on the roster on March 19th. Instead, they will send a sixth-rounder to the Seahawks as compensation for the midseason trade last year.

Harvin had a total of 51 receptions for 483 yards and 33 carries for 202 yards with two touchdowns last season. With the exception of 2013 when he played just one game, Harvin's 43.3 yards per scrimmage per game was the lowest of his career.

One of the more electric playmakers with the ball in his hands, Harvin is only 26 years old so he should generate plenty of interest on the free market, but he will soon be playing for his fourth NFL team.

In addition to the headaches he may cause in the locker room and for the coaches, Harvin has struggled with durability as he has played only 23 games over the past three seasons combined.


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The Colts won't re-sign WR Reggie Wayne

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is about to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday and the team said today that they will not re-sign one of the best players in franchise history.

Averaging only 51.9 yards per game, his lowest since 2002, Wayne finished with 64 receptions for 779 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. Wayne returned from a torn ACL suffered in the middle of the 2013 season.

Wayne ranks seventh all-time in receptions (1,070) and eighth all-time in receiving yards (14,345) and he ranks second all-time (behind Marvin Harrison) in franchise history.

It's unclear whether Wayne, who turns 37 in November, will retire or seek to play for another franchise.

Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton had a career-best season (82/1,345/7) as he finished the year as a top-12 fantasy wide receiver and Donte Moncrief will be poised for a significant bump in playing time and targets in his second season.


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March 04, 2015

2015 NFL Free-Agency Rankings: Ndamukong Suh tops list of free agents

With the start of the 2015 NFL free-agency period set to begin on Tuesday, I posted my top-50 2015 NFL free-agency rankings as well as my positional rankings earlier today.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I will continue to make daily updates to our free-agent rankings as players are released, signed, etc.

Here are our 2015 NFL free-agent rankings of available players (Sept. 1st age in parenthesis):

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (28)

Selected as a First-Team AP All-Pro in each of the past two seasons, Suh is a disruptive interior pass-rusher with 36.0 career sacks over his five seasons. In addition, he graded out as PFF's second-best defensive tackle against the run last year. It's rare for a player with Suh's ability to hit the free-agent market in the prime of his career.

2. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers (25)

Cobb, who turns 25 in August, posted career numbers across the board last season with 91 receptions, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Reports are that Cobb is seeking $12 million per year. Cobb is a versatile and dynamic player, but his best fit would be to re-sign with the Packers.

3. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (28)

Only 27 years old, the converted cornerback is one of the best coverage safeties in the league, but it's unclear whether he'll reach the free-agent market on March 10th. With the Patriots using their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it's possible that they are close to a long-term deal with McCourty. Provided the Pats don't re-sign before March 10th, demand for McCourty's services will be high.

4. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos (27)

Not a great blocker (how many tight ends are these days?) and durability has been an issue (has missed multiple games each season), Thomas has the athleticism to create mismatches.

5. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (27)

Not only did Murray lead the NFL in rushing, but he had nearly 500 more rushing yards than Le'Veon Bell, who finished second in the league. The Offensive Player of the Year, Murray broke Emmitt Smith's single-season rushing record and has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over his four-year career. It was his first full 16-game season, however, and Murray had 497 touches including the playoffs last season.

6. Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo Bills (27)

With Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul getting the franchise tag, Hughes is the top edge rusher to hit the open market (assuming that he doesn't agree to a long-term deal with the Bills before March 10th). Struggling in his first three seasons with the Colts, Hughes has posted 9.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons.

7. Byron Maxwell, CB, Seattle Seahawks (27)

With Richard Sherman on the other side, Maxwell saw plenty of action his way and played well. The Seahawks would certainly like to re-sign the 6-foot corner that recently turned 27 years old, but he will have plenty of suitors, which should drive up his price tag to roughly $10 million per season.

8. Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens (26)

Playing only 48.8 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season, the versatile McPhee had 7.5 sacks and 64 quarterback pressures. The Baltimore Sun described McPhee as a "luxury item the Ravens probably can't afford" and expect McPhee to fetch up to $10 million per year on the free market.

9. Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (27)

Worilds, who turned 27 at the beginning of the month, has a total of 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is one of the best pass-rushers to hit the open market. Worilds also tied for third among 3-4 OLBs in run-stop percentage (7.1) per PFF.

10. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers (27)

It will be interesting to see what happens with Hardy on the free market. Over the past three seasons, Hardy has 27.0 sacks in 32 games and will turn 27 years old this summer. That said, he played in only one game last season and remains on the commissioner's exempt list and could be facing league discipline in 2015 from domestic-violence charges that have since been dropped.

11. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (27)

After tearing his ACL in 2013, Maclin signed a one-year prove-it type of contract and he posted career-high numbers of 85 catches and 1,318 yards with 10 touchdowns.

12. Brandon Flowers, CB, San Diego Chargers (29)

Signing a one-year deal with the Chargers in 2014, Flowers had a bounce-back season. Flowers may lack size at 5-foot-9, but he has the versatility to play both inside and outside.

-> Continue to our full Top-50 2015 NFL Free-Agency Rankings

To keep track of our updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle.


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Saints cut running back Pierre Thomas

The Saints have released running back Pierre Thomas earlier today.

Thomas, who turns 31 in December, carried the ball only 45 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns and added 45 receptions for 378 yards and a touchdown in 11 games last season. In 2013, however, he had a running back-high 77 receptions.

In addition to Thomas, the Saints backfield will be without Mark Ingram, who is coming off a career-best season and ranked second among running backs in our 2015 NFL free-agency rankings.

Based on the backs currently on the roster, Khiry Robinson should handle the bulk of early-down carries and Travaris Cadet should be the primary third-down back.

Given the team's salary-cap situation, the Saints will need to make more cuts to get under the cap before the league year begins on Tuesday.


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March 02, 2015

Dolphins use transition tag on TE Charles Clay

The Miami Dolphins have used their transition tag on tight end Charles Clay, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

With the transition tag, any of the other 31 NFL teams can sign Clay to an offer sheet, but the Dolphins would have seven days to match the offer.

Numbers for the versatile tight end dropped in 2014 (58/605/3) from 2013 (69/759/6), but he got off to a slow start -- average of 3.4 receptions for 29.2 yards in the first five games of the season.

Beginning in Week 7, however, Clay averaged 4.56 catches for 51.0 yards per game and scored all three of his touchdowns. From Week 7 to 17, Clay ranked fifth among tight ends in fantasy points per game (7.1). Only Rob Gronkowski (14.0), Coby Fleener (9.2), Antonio Gates (8.8) and Jimmy Graham (8.3) averaged more during that span.

Note: We have tracked all players designated with the franchise tag here.


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Patriots use franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski -- not Devin McCourty

Although free safety Devin McCourty is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Patriots have decided to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

It's the third time in the past five seasons that the Patriots have used their franchise tag. They also used the tag on Wes Welker in 2012 and Logan Mankins in 2011.

Gostkowski has led the NFL in field goals made in each of the past two seasons with 38 and 35 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and he made a career-high 94.6 percent of his attempts last season. His previous career high in FG% was 92.7 percent in 2013.

The Patriots and Gostkowski have until July 15th to negotiate a long-term contract. If the Patriots don't agree to a long-term deal with McCourty by March 10th, he will become an unrestricted free agent. If he reaches the open market, he'll be one of the most sought-after free agents.

Note: We are tracking all players designated with the franchise tag here.


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Giants use franchise tag on DE Jason Pierre-Paul

The Giants used their franchise tag today on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, per NY Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano.

Both sides will have until July 15th to negotiate a long-term deal, but if the two sides can't agree to one by then, Pierre-Paul would play out the 2015 for a fully-guaranteed salary of $14.813 million once he signs his tender.

After posting a career-low 2.0 sacks and missing five games in 2013, JPP bounced back with 12.5 sacks in 2014 and forced a career-high three fumbles.

The 12.5 sacks that JPP had in 2014 were the second-most of his career after the 16.5 he had in 2011 and he ranked eighth in the NFL in sacks last season. Kansas City's Justin Houston, who led the league with 22.0 sacks, was also franchise tagged today.

Note: We are tracking all players designated with the franchise tag here.


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The Cowboys designate WR Dez Bryant with franchise tag

With the team recently saying they would use the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant, it's no surprise -- but official -- that the team has used the franchise tag on Bryant today, per Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo.

By designating Bryant with the franchise tag, both sides will have until July 15th to negotiate a long-term deal. If both sides can't reach a long-term deal, Bryant would otherwise play under a fully-guaranteed $12.823 million salary once he signs his tender.

The Cowboys may have some reservations about giving Bryant a lot of guaranteed money given some off-the-field concerns, but Bryant has been absolutely dominant on the field.

In each of the past three seasons, Bryant has had at least 88 receptions, 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Not only did Bryant lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns (16) last season, but no player has more over the five years since Bryant was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Over the past five seasons, only four players have 50-plus touchdown receptions: Bryant (56), Rob Gronkowski (54), Calvin Johnson (53) and Jimmy Graham (51).

Note: We will track all players designated with the franchise tag here.


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The Lions announce they won't use franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh

With the prohibitive cost of $26.9 million, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh won't be designated with the franchise tag today.

Both sides have until March 10th to negotiate a long-term deal, otherwise Suh will become an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team.

As Tim Twentyman of the team's website notes, Suh will count $9.7 on the team's 2015 salary cap even if he signs a free-agent deal elsewhere based on a sixth-year option in the contract and some previous contract restructures.

Suh's next contract is expected to be in the $100 million range as J.J. Watt recently signed a six-year and $100 million contract while Gerald McCoy received a $95.2 million deal.

Named to the 2014 AP All-Pro First Team, Suh led the Lions with 8.5 sacks and 37 quarterback hurries last season.

Note: We will track all players designated with the franchise tag here.


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Broncos will designate WR Demaryius Thomas with the franchise tag before today's deadline

The Chiefs were the first team to designate a player with the franchise tag this morning by making certain that Justin Houston wouldn't hit the free-agent market.

Another player that won't become a free agent this offseason is Denver's Demaryius Thomas, who will be designated with the franchise tag before today's 4 p.m. deadline, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

We will track all players designated with the franchise tag here.

Both sides will have until July 15th to negotiate a long-term deal, otherwise Thomas would play out the season on a guaranteed salary expected to be $12.8 million.

The Broncos have a couple of other key free agents, such as tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, but it's possible that both reach free agency.

In the three seasons since signing Peyton Manning, Demaryius has more than 90 receptions, 1,400 yards and double-digit touchdowns every year.

During that three-year span, he has a total of 297 receptions, 4,483 yards and 35 touchdowns. Only Calvin Johnson has more yards (4,533) and only Dez Bryant has more touchdowns (41) during that span.


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Chiefs designate OLB Justin Houston with the franchise tag

One of the league's best young pass rushers, it was a virtual certainty that the Chiefs wouldn't let outside linebacker Justin Houston hit unrestricted free agency.

And he won't.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Chiefs have designated Houston with their franchise tag.

Today is the deadline for teams to designate players with the franchise tag and we will track all players designated with the franchise tag here.

Both sides will have until July 15th to negotiate a long-term deal. Otherwise, Houston will play out the 2015 season on a guaranteed salary of $13.17 million.

With double-digit sacks in each of the past three seasons, Houston, who turned 26 in January, led the NFL with 22.0 sacks in 2015. Only J.J. Watt (51.5) has more sacks than Houston (43.0) over the past three seasons.


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February 26, 2015

Falcons cut RB Steven Jackson, who doesn't plan to retire

After two seasons with the club, the Atlanta Falcons have released running back Steven Jackson. Although Jackson turns 32 years old in July, he has no plans to retire.

Jackson wrote on his website, "Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

Before joining the Falcons, S-Jax eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for eight consecutive seasons. Over the past two seasons, however, he has rushed for a total of 1,250 yards on 347 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

With Jackson now a free agent, Devonta Freeman tops the team's depth chart and could have an opportunity for a breakout season in 2015.

That said, running back is deep in this year's draft class and it wouldn't surprise me if the Falcons add a running back on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft, as I have projected in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

Jackson has 11,388 career rushing yards, which ranks 16th all-time, but he also has 3,207 career touches, which is the 14th-most ever.


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February 25, 2015

Lions release RB Reggie Bush

The Detroit Lions have released running back Reggie Bush, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

In an injury-plagued season, Bush, who turns 29 next week, missed five games and gained just 297 yards on 76 carries, which averages out to a six-year low of 3.91 yards per carry. He also added 40 receptions for 253 yards.

Although Bush played 45 games in the previous three seasons, he has missed multiple games in six of his nine NFL seasons.

Averaging 17.13 touches per game last season, Joique Bell will once again be a solid RB2 option in 2015 and Theo Riddick, who had 34 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns, will see his role expand further for a potential breakout season.

Riddick never played more than 41.3 percent of the team's offensive snaps in any one game last season and managed to play just 20.0 percent on the year. Scoring the 47th-most points among running backs in PPR formats, Riddick has RB2/flex upside in PPR formats in 2015.

Bush's release doesn't generate a ton of savings with the cap, but the Lions could use as much extra cap space as they could get with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley about to become unrestricted free agents.


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February 23, 2015

Panthers to release running back DeAngelo Williams

It was expected (and it's not yet official), but the Panthers will release running back DeAngelo Williams, per Molly Grantham of WBTV.

Turning 32 years old the week before the 2015 NFL Draft, Williams played in just six games last season as he rushed 63 times for 219 yards and a career-low 3.5 yards per carry while adding five catches for 44 yards.

Williams is the all-time leader in franchise history in carries (1,432), rushing yards (6,846) and rushing touchdowns (46). Teammate Jonathan Stewart is second all-time in all three categories.

Getting the long-awaited opportunity as the team's featured back down the stretch last year, The Daily Show rushed for 486 yards (5.34 YPC) on 91 carries in the team's final five games. The only running back with more rushing yards during that span was Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (491).

Going into 2015, Stewart will be a solid RB2 in fantasy football drafts and he went off the board at the end of the fourth round in our way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft earlier this month.


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February 15, 2015

ESPN Boston speculates that the Patriots won't pay up to re-sign Shane Vereen in free agency

The New England Patriots have two soon-to-be free-agent running backs that topped their depth chart to start the 2014 season -- Stevan Ridley, who ended the season on Injured Reserve, and Shane Vereen.

In a quick-hits post this morning, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss speculated on the future of Vereen:

"For those looking at a potential financial market for running back Shane Vereen in free agency, one respected NFL source pointed me to the three-year, $10.5 million deal ($4 million guaranteed) signed by Donald Brown with the Chargers last year as the starting point. I could see Vereen exceeding that, and I have doubts the Patriots – given their recent free-agent history with running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead – would match it. From the pure-speculation department: I could see the Jacksonville Jaguars as a strong suitor for Vereen, in part because of the championship pedigree he could bring and their significant salary cap space."

Setting career highs across the board, Vereen carried the ball 96 times for 391 yards, added 52 receptions for 447 yards and scored a total of five touchdowns in 2014.

Vereen, who will 26 in March, was the 35th running back off the board selected with the last pick in Round 7 of our newest 2015 fantasy football mock draft.

The 2015 NFL free-agency period begins on March 10th.


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February 14, 2015

The Jets decline option on RB Chris Johnson

Exercising options on linebackers Calvin Pace and Jason Babin, the New York Jets will not exercise their option on running back Chris Johnson.

The move will save the Jets $3.5 million in salary-cap space and Johnson, who turns 30 in September, will be free to test the free-agent market next month.

Johnson carried the ball 155 times for 663 yards and a touchdown and added 24 catches for 151 yards and another score in his lone season with the Jets.

Before signing with the Jets, Johnson had rushed for 1,000-plus yards in all six of his seasons with the Titans although he has been much less explosive over the past several seasons.

With Chan Gailey named offensive coordinator under new head coach Todd Bowles, one of the free-agent running backs that will be linked to the Jets over the next several weeks will be C.J. Spiller. Spiller had his breakout 2012 season (1,244 rushing yards, 6.0 yards per carry) with Gailey in Buffalo.


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Cowboys decline option on defensive tackle Henry Melton

One year after signing defensive tackle Henry Melton to a contract in free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have declined his three-year option for $24 million, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.

The move will generate roughly $8.5 million in cap space for the Cowboys, which should help them re-sign Dez Bryant and/or DeMarco Murray, both of whom are set to become free agents.

A Pro Bowl player with the Bears in 2012, Melton missed most of 2013 due to a torn ACL and he was probably never 100 percent in 2014 as he played only 41.0 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season.

Finishing second on the team in sacks (five) and generating 17 quarterback pressures last year, Melton was a liability against the run. Among 81 qualified defensive tackles, Melton graded sixth at the position as a pass-rusher by PFF, but he was 66th versus the run.

The Cowboys may try to negotiate a new contract at more favorable terms with Melton, but he is otherwise free to sign with another team when free agency opens on March 10th.


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February 12, 2015

SI's Andrew Brandt predicts DeMarco Murray will be back with the Cowboys in 2015

Without much salary-cap flexibility, there has been speculation that the Dallas Cowboys won't be able re-sign both wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray.

Given the career longevity and greater difficulty of finding an elite wide receiver (compared to running backs), the likelihood that the Cowboys bring back Bryant -- over Murray -- is high if they can only afford one.

If Bryant and the Cowboys can't agree on a long-term deal, the Cowboys will likely use the franchise tag on him to at least own his rights for one more season and to buy time to negotiate a long-term deal.

Armed with the ammunition of the franchise tag for Bryant, perhaps the Cowboys will be able to return both players in 2015 based on a free-agency prediction from SI's Andrew Brandt, who wrote the following:

"DeMarco Murray, after shopping his services to a lukewarm marketplace, returns to the Cowboys for a team-friendly contract. As I have often noted, Murray’s strong production may have actually hurt his contract value, with teams more focused on future rather than past performance. Indeed, free-agent running backs with less tread on the tire—think Ryan Mathews and Justin Forsett—may actually procure better contracts. As for the Cowboys, they have clearly prioritized Dez Bryant ahead of Murray all along."

Counting the Cowboys' two playoff games, Murray had a total of 497 touches for 2,486 yards from scrimmage behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season.

In our new and way-too-early 2015 fantasy football mock draft, Murray was selected with pick 1.04. A month prior to the start of free agency, however, there is obvious risk due to his free-agent status, massive workload from 2014 and previous injury-prone history.


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